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Nancy Welch

Dealing with the beast within

    I am not a doctor. I don’t even play one on television, but since being diagnosed with cancer I have seen plenty of doctors. Therefore I feel fairly knowledgeable about what it is like to experience the dreaded disease.
    I had turned 60 not long before I found myself sitting in a rather uncomfortable chair in a urologist’s examining room. Before and after my rather grandiose birthday party, I had been having a number of tests and had arrived at this destination to find out what I needed to do to get well.
    He came in, sat down on a stool, which, I thought, looked much more uncomfortable than the chair I was perched on. He looked Eastern European, I thought. How important is that?
    The doc looked over his reading glasses, my medical chart dangling from his left hand.
    “Well he said, I’m afraid we (at this point my brain dropped a curtain) blah, blah, blah, carcinoma, chemotherapy, possible surgery, but we want to avoid that because it is a nasty piece of business,”
    I doubt there is anyone my age who hasn’t wondered how we would react to such news. I was surprised at my response.
     “Did you think if you used a big word, I wouldn’t understand what you were saying to me?” I asked. “You just said I have cancer. I know what carcinoma means.”
    “Yes,” he answered. “Now we have to get to work.”
    I had no idea how much that moment would define and change my life. Nor did I realize in how many ways I would be affected, both physically and mentally.
    “Let’s get to work,” I said. “What’s next?”
    He was honest and kind. As kind as he could be under the circumstances.
    I left his office that day without being poked with a needle. It occurred to me later that it was the last time I left a doctor’s office without being ‘needled’ for a very long time.
    On the way back home, I waited for the tears to come. Surely, I thought, no one receives this news without crying. After all, I could die. But, I decided, I would not. Not yet. Wouldn’t cry, wouldn’t die.
    And so my journey began. And it continues, even over a year later.
    I’m sure few find dealing with “carcinoma” easy or funny. Looking back,. I think I chose to find the funny and use every bit of determination I could muster to fight the beast within me. I had no illusions, but I certainly had plenty of misconceptions. I will share them all with you as we count the time to our community’s Relay for Life. Someday I hope to walk as a survivor. Someday I hope there is a cure. But, in the meantime, I continue to take one step at a time. For now, that is my Relay for Life.
    I thank God for my wonderful doctors who work constantly to heal me. I thank God for the many medical professionals who anticipate my needs and, without doling out maudlin sympathy, forge ahead, trying to make me as comfortable as possible while carrying out the treatments my doctors prescribe.
    My journey so far has not been too bad. Oh, there have been moments; but for, the most part, I have managed.
    I invite you to accompany me as this journey continues. I pray no one who reads this will face dealing with the dreaded disease. Sadly, statistics tell us, not many of us will make it to middle age without dealing with cancer --either in our own bodies or in the bodies of those we love.
    By the time you read this, I will be well into my second round of chemotherapy. I will tell you about my surprise at what chemo entailed and the strange and sometimes funny consequences of having poison pumped into your veins can do to you. (A hint: not as bad as I thought).
    As someone who is fighting cancer ( I will not be called a victim); I must say that each tme I read of a walk, a run or any kind of recognition of the disease and efforts to raise funds for research, I am heartened. I encourage anyone who is able to join in The Relay for Life. Those of us in the battle are fortified by your determination to help in any way you can. Walk, run, knock on doors, make phone calls. Much has been done to find a cure for the many “carcinomas” that exist. Much more is needed.
    Step forth and help. Put on your walking shoes and boogy with me (my apologies to the composer of that song.)
    As my urologist said., “There is work to be done.”
    I’ll work. I hope you will, too.

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